The Germans were silent all night, also our gunmen. Rains heavy all morning. Private David Young, Private Walter Durham and myself assay a march into Ypres. We start at 11:20 over a very muddy and hard cobble stone road. Arrived at Dickebusch at 12:20 noon got “dinner” after a deal of trouble – two eggs and some chopped potatoes. No coffee nor tea. The Military Authorities have banned the sale – suspicious of rum etc being in it – until 6 pm. Left Dickebusch at 1 pm for Ypres. Awful road to travel on. Five kilometers from Dickebusch to Ypres. Large shell holes cover the fields on either side, trees cut down by shells etc. Pass several sentries. Cross bridge over the canal or moat. Everywhere is ruin and desolation. Not a house habitable. We pass the Railway Station on our left and ramparts on right and enter street covered with brick and masonry. Arrive at Cloth Hall and Cathedral. We go inside to inspect. Only two minarets standing. We pass over the market square [and enter] Convent of St Maria in ruins. After, to Church of St Jacques. Pass pile of debris whereon is a cross with words “Under this debris lie the bodies of 6 men of the K.O.Y.L.I (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry)”. Near Church of St Jacques is grave to two “unknown friends”. Pass up Rue de Beurre and see Church of St Nicholas with roof completely off. Was bombed April 22. Visit another Convent and yet another. There were 20 Convents in Ypres before the war. Plenty of troops have had more than they can carry of wine and beer and are [rolling] a good bit. On way back we met several parties going to the trenches, carrying Christmas parcels and looking rather moody and thoughtful about their present and past Christmas.
Corporal Lightbody held Service in [hut] with gamblers on opposite side.
Battalion goes digging in morning and night by half companies. The Huns do very little shelling. The rain still comes down heavily. Lance Corporal Alec MacQueen and I walk to Dickebusch. To see grave of Lance Corporal W J Huston of Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry. Died of wounds last January. Also Sergeant Mansbridge. Both graves are grass covered with a cross on top and one at the head. The inscription is of zinc with letters embossed. The grave of Captain Newton is ready for another corpse as his body has been removed. There is a hole 15 feet in diameter in the church wall caused by shell of Germans. Ypres is deserted except for Burgo-master.
*Burgo-master – The leader of the town i.e. the Mayor.
The Regiment leaves Flêtre at 9 am for La Clytte. Very heavy cannonading during the night and morning between Ypres and Armentieres. Lieutenant Harry Bristowe goes down to the base – sick. Leave billet alone to Mont des Cats. At an inn there the proprietor says she smelled gas which the Germans had been using. It had come into her house. Same incident at Berthen and Westouter thro’ which villages I passed. I arrive at La Clytte; what a hole!!
Mud up to thighs; awful stuff.
The Regiment encamps under canvas tents. A hellish bombardment goes on all around our front. We are next to a battery of 8 inch naval guns. A grand fight at night.
[Out] between Berthen and Westouter. I saw 3 separate fights between aeroplanes, Germans and ours. Our fellows downed them every time.
Artillery pounded away at night and morning.
Germans used gas which I had a taste of but it suddenly turned with the wind and fixed them instead of us. The Cheshire Regiment capture 3 kilometers of trenches and capture 700 Huns. Wallach gets Orderly job.
*Chlorine-Phosgene combined gas attack – December 19th 1915 was the first time the Germans used combined chlorine-phosgene gas as a weapon. 88 tons of gas was released at Wieltje near Ypres causing 1069 casualties and 69 deaths. Allied troops had gas masks available at this time which helped decrease the death toll.
Feeling very sick – influenza. An old friend, Theo C. Walker leaves my billet (only 3 in it, Private Dave Young is the other one) for Ypres, there to report to 10th Battalion Lancaster Fusiliers as Lieutenant.
Heavy cannonading along the front.
Princess Pats hold sports. Received letter from Reverend N.J Thompson. I go to Nieppe. Am entertained to tea by some French ladies into afternoon. They are from Ypres, Lille and Armentiéres.
Passed Doctor but nothing definite is done.
Walking exercise in afternoon.
‘Tis rumoured that Princess Pats have been completely wiped out at Ypres and only one Lieutenant and 120 men left.
Parade early morning at 6:30 to 9:15, for walking exercise again at 9:30 am till 11 am.
A large contingent of 4,000 men and officers (160) left our camp for the front to fill up gap caused by the engagement at Langemarck and Ypres. We lost 80 Canadian Officers and 2,000 men in casualties.
*The Second Battle of Ypres – The Second Battle of Ypres began on April 22nd of 1915. It is most notable for being the first successful mass gas attack by German troops on the Western Front. Though the Germans had previously used gas on the eastern front at the battle of Bolimow, the cold air caused it to freeze and become ineffective. On the western front at Ypres however the Germans released 171t of chlorine gas that was carried by the wind towards allied troops and settled in their trenches. The allied troops, including Canadians, were forced to retreat due to the gas. However at Kitchener’s Wood the 10th Battalion of the 2nd Canadian Brigade counter-attacked pushing back the German troops. Though the Canadians suffered 75% casualties during the attack, it was the first time that a former colonial force had defeated a European power on European soil.
At Portsmouth Reference Library researching
“Princess Pats” make a gallant charge at Ypres and drive the Germans from trenches.
Up at 10:30 am
Got a meal & walked round. Engineers making trenches around the farm. I forage for food & am able to purchase 2 slices of bread at [1p] (two sous)per slice. Returned to my quarters in the Backhouse. Made bed of straw & tried to sleep. Beautiful night moonlight. Heavy bombardment on the line between Ypres & Lille. Cold is so severe that sleep in impossible. Up at 8 am.